May 30, 2011

Of Dirty Martinis in the Face

I have noticed something about the way that I make transitions. Last week, I was in that I-know-that-I'm-leaving-Nigeria-soon-but-it-doesn't-seem-real mode. I even recognized that when I was talking with Deborah and Kyle.

But today.

Today, the realization of what is actually happening in my life over the next few months blasted me full force like a dirty martini thrown in the face of a cheating ex. Well, maybe not quite that much. But still. It was pretty shocking for me.

I was out at Nampak (the South Africans' compound where we have small group and other get togethers) this morning and one of the guys was talking about how much he'll miss us when we're gone. And then I realized that I am very nearly done with my time here. And then it hit me how very much I still have to be done by the time I get on that airplane home.

However, even though the next month will be crazy busy, I know that it will also be good. And even though there have been many days where I've wanted to just be done and leave this country, there have been more where I have enjoyed it. As my friend, Eva, has been praying, "I [will] leave Nigeria with a sweet taste in my mouth."

May 29, 2011

On a Busy, but Fun, Weekend

Already this weekend I have:

-Been covered in a disgusting concoction of my students' design (spaghetti, ketchup, mustard, chocolate syrup, etc)

-Watched some of my students in a choir concert (I was SO proud!).

-Sang "The Hallelujah Chorus" in said concert.

-Gone to a Lebanese celebration in which I had shawarma (maybe my favorite food ever), fresh za'atar with yogurt, tomato, mint, olives, and cucumber, and then these little pastries that are filled with spinach. We saw a lot of students and had a great time.

-Started making a list of things I need to bring to China and things I am going to leave here.

And now I'm off to church for the last time (probably) in Nigeria, then out to spend the night at the South Africans' compound. I'm so glad we have the day off of school tomorrow!

May 23, 2011

On Making Thankfulness Pie Out of Lemons

(OK, so I may have mixed a metaphor or two with my title. Whatev.)

On some days I love teaching. I feel as though the time is perfect, my pacing is great, and I can really enjoy some playful banter with the students on top of all our learning. I don't like teaching on days like today. Days where none of the printers work (which makes it difficult to print out things like tests, study guides, or applications for extra pages in my passport (that's right - my passport is FULL)), where last minute changes are constantly made, and where great plans that were set have to be shifted to not-so-great plans because of someone else's poor communication skills.

So, in spite of some frustrations with this school in particular, I'm going to list the things I love about teaching in general.

1. I LOVE having relationships with my students. I love being able to help them when they're having a rough day, and I love teaching them the difference between right and wrong. I love being a mentor for 15 little minds every single day (even on days like today).

2. I love that it makes me a better person. I am forced to be organized (which my mom would say is quite a feat), attentive, disciplined, and patient (which I didn't think I had a problem with before. Heh.). I have learned much more about myself and my weaknesses in my first two years of teaching than I ever had before. And teaching is great because you can see your own progress as you change behaviors you don't like.

3. I love that, for the most part, I enjoy my job. I actually enjoy spending time with my students and helping them to grow through difficult times in life. Sure, there are things I hate (grading a bajillion spelling tests every week/reading rubbish when a student was rushed with a project/putting up with the incessant buzz of the whining students/parent-teacher conferences) but those things are worth pushing through. I also enjoy the moments when both my students and I know that I'm being a good teacher.

4. It's selfish and vain, but I love it when students tell me that I'm a good teacher. It is just so encouraging.

5. I love that my job is possible all over the world, even in places where it might be hard to find a job. Teachers are everywhere!

If ever you are having a rotten day, I suggest you make a list of things you love about the frustrating parts of your life. Speaking from a fairly recent experience, it works.

May 19, 2011

Of Errands, Malfunctions, and Impromptu Friendships

I'm sure I've mentioned it here before, but there are some days when it just hits me that I am really in Africa. A-FRI-CA.

Today was such a day. Now, sometimes I use this blog to share frustrating experiences, and lately I have been noticing that my blog has been sounding a little . . . sad/depressing/whiny/lame . . . take your pick or feel free to add another adjective. So, in an effort to change this, I'm sharing a beautiful moment that happened today.

I was not looking forward to the afternoon because I knew that I had many errands to run in preparation for heading back to the States and then moving to China (things like getting more passport photos taken, getting a physical - which has been postponed -, and buying gifts for people back home). So after running all around town getting things done, I finally brought my cloth that I've had for MONTHS to the tailor to get made into an agbada. In case you're wondering what an agbada is, think of the West African Presidents you've seen, and they were probably wearing one (See picture below in case you're still lost). I'm really excited about getting it done.

So, back to the story, I was walking back to the van after dropping off my material. I bought some plantain chips (which are unbelievably awesome) and as I was walking, the local guys started shouting, "Oyinbo! You chop* plantain?!?"And I couldn't help but smile and start a conversation with them. This type of thing happens all the time here, and it is one of my favorite parts about Nigeria. The people are NOT shy about talking to me.

After this, I was driving back to the house. As usual, there was traffic (back me up on this, Eva) - a semi had turned in such a way that he was completely blocking the road, and then he proceeded to make an eleven-point turn as he tried to back into a driveway. And so I did what every good Nigerian does to save petrol - I turned off my car. Forgetting that the car has been having problems with the wiring to the battery.

Of course, once traffic started, the car did not turn back on. On go the hazards, open goes the door, and then I proceed to push my car off the road to work on the wiring (by the way, this is going above and beyond what most Nigerians do. Usually, if a car stops working on the road, they just fix it right there until it runs. None of this move-your-car-off-to-the-side-of-the-road-so-that-the-traffic-doesn't-have-to-take-turns-going-through-a-single-lane business.) As I was pushing and steering and feeling pret-ty proud of myself for being so strong, I looked back to realize that two young Nigerian guys walking past had seen me get out of the car and immediately helped me out, even though they were dressed in nicer clothes. They then asked me if I needed help to call a mechanic, but I knew how to fix the problem so I thanked them in Yoruba and said I would be ok.

Now let me tell you something about the Yoruba people. Anytime you speak their language, it's as though you have just given them the best news in the world. "Ah ah! Oyinbo done speak Yoruba-o!" Even the simplest Yoruba greetings provide the most cheerful responses.

Once the people selling "bis-keet" and "mineral" (sweet crackers and cookies, and soda) heard my simple Yoruba thank you, they all started chattering away and coming over to meet me. Once I fixed my car, I had made many new friends. This is the type of thing that simply doesn't happen everywhere in the world.

So, even though this is not a perfect country by any means, I am still enjoying my final time here. And, despite all of the frustrations I've had in the past, and despite the problems which will surely come in the following month and a half, I will definitely miss this place.

*chop = eat in Pidgin
The Agbada

May 18, 2011

In Which the Auther Smells the Barn

My college choir director, while on tour in Ukraine, told us the story of how he used to work at a stable. The horses would always be very docile and controllable for most of the excursions into the forests or fields; that is, until they got within scent of the barn. Once they could smell the barn, they started to get restless and over-excited which made them more difficult to control.

I can smell the barn.

And it smells good.

(Just to clarify here, when I say that I smell the barn, I mean that I can sense that my time here is almost finished and that I am excited to be home (in the barn) for awhile.)

Because of this, I've been feeling an increasing trend to just . . . be lazy. And comfortable. I have a hard time getting to work on my grading, I've not really been reading the Bible very consistently at all, and lots of other things have sort of fallen by the wayside as well.

Kyle has been feeling it, too. We certainly have been going hard for a long time without a break (well, except for the Benin fiasco, but that hardly counts as a break). We haven't had more than two consecutive days off since the beginning of February. And that makes it hard to keep my motivation going. Add on top of that the delightful scent of delicious oats and warm hay, and it's no wonder I'm having a hard time. Only a month and a half left. . .

May 8, 2011

On Quick Transitions

One month from today I will be living in Nigeria.

Two months from today I will home in the United States.

Three months from today I will be living in China.

May 5, 2011

On New Beginnings in the Future

As I was closing my computer last night to fall asleep, I noticed I had one more email. I decided to check what it was. I wish I had waited until this morning. It took me nearly an hour and a half to fall asleep after reading it.

It told me that I have a job next year! I will be teaching middle school math in Qingdao, China! Qingdao is a city on the Yellow Sea and it has not only the ocean, but there are also small mountains around as well! The school looks really amazing.

If you would be willing to pray for me as I make this transition, that would be great. I'll only have a month in the States this summer, so my transition from Nigeria to the US and then to China could be a little stressful. But I know that God's pretty legit, so I know that I can count on Him for strength, even when everything around me is changing.